Underwear, batteries, and beans

Doublechecked the Muni map, like I should’ve done yesterday, and saw that I could’ve taken any K or L to West Portal, and transferred to a 17 that would’ve taken me to the mall. Ya live ya learn.

An M to Stonestown — the train I never saw yesterday — pulled in as soon as I walked onto the platform. Smooth ride, no waiting, and I saw that double feature a day later than I’d intended.

The Client takes place in a reality I recognized, with poor people who really seem poor, working crap jobs like mine or even crappier. It was nice not seeing all the righteous cops and morally starched and dedicated lawyers you see in so many movies and TV shows. These cops are basically bastards, and the lawyers are generally slime.

The story felt real too — a boy knows too much, and the feds want him to talk, and the mob wants him dead — for the first hour, anyway. Then it devolved into typical Hollywood slop. Susan Sarandon is excellent, as always, and so’s the boy playing the boy. 

I came for Natural Born Killers, though, because I have an odd admiration for Oliver Stone. His movies usually frustrate me as being almost really good, but not quite. He’s had a few hits, though, so he gets to make what he wants, and he chooses interesting subjects nobody else would touch.

JFK, for example, was a complete mess, full of nauseating quick-cuts and historical lies. I didn't care for the answers, but nobody else in the movies asks the questions. Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July were both wildly melodramatic, almost operatic, and both were saddled with pretty-boy stars, but Stone’s the guy who gave those big-budget flicks their somewhat subversive point of view. His movies are the only Hollywood products with any point of view at all.

So I came to Natural Born Killers with mixed expectations, but it’s the first Stone movie I’ve really liked, without asterisks or caveats or disclaimers. It’s the hallucinogenic story of young lovers who are also psychotic killers, so it’s violent as blood itself, and also playful and sarcastic and then violent some more. It’s a flying karate kick to the groin of America, and I laughed my dang fool head off.

When it was over, I had a smashing headache, maybe because NBK was overwhelming, but more likely because both features were shown slightly out of focus. That seems to be corporate policy for United Artists theaters; it happens almost every time I see a movie in any box that says UA out front. Gotta respect the consistency, man. It's never unwatchable, only slightly blurry.

Complaining to the staff is pointless, so I didn't. They never do anything about it. They always say, “I’ll tell the projectionist,” and I say thanks, and go back to my seat, and watch the rest of the movie still out of focus. 

Most of my movie-going is old movies, at theaters like the Roxie or Castro, where they specialize in old movies. The projectionists are in the same union, I think, but at those places the film is always focused.

There's a different crowd, too. At Stonestown there was more talking, and louder, than there would’ve been at the Roxie. More feet on the seats, stickier carpet, and today at least, a barbarian vibe. There’s ample blood and death in Natural Born Killers, and the audience was hooting and hollering, with light applause after some of the murders, and occasional shouts of “Kill him!” and “Yeah!”

The Strand was a trashy theater with trashy customers, and at the St Francis you expect drunks and psychotics and gene pool bottom-dwellers, and the kooky crowd becomes part of the appeal.

At a suburban theater like the Stonestown, it’s the American middle-class you’re surrounded by. During a lull in the violence I looked around at all these ordinary people, and clearly focused, it was as frightening as anything on the screen.

♦ ♦ ♦

At the mall after the movie, I bought underwear and batteries, and told myself I’d never come back to the mall, but I’ve told myself that before. Then I streetcarred home and spent the rest of the day writing a few letters, and working on the September issue of the zine. I let the mumbling man into his room, and picked my nose and farted frequently. 

Had two cans of refried beans for dinner, to keep the farts coming. Genuine Goya brand, on sale at a stupid low price a while back, so I stocked up. Stir in some chopped-up onions and just a smidgen of peanut butter, and beans become a delicacy.

From Pathetic Life #5
Sunday, October 2, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.


Pathetic Life 

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  1. Captain HampocketsAugust 1, 2021 at 6:45 AM

    I saw Natural Born Killers before I moved to SF. In theaters, I LOVED it. I thought it was easily the best picture that year. IIRC, that was the year that Pulp Fiction lost to Forrest Fucking Gump, but I could be wrong. I definitely loved (and still love) Pulp Fiction, but NBK was my favorite.

    It hasn't aged well. I saw it maybe 10 years ago, and it's hery heavy-handed and obious about its points. Kinda like American Beauty. Great in the moment, not so much on later viewing.

    1. American insanity has gotten much, much more overt, so I don't think I'd enjoy Natural Born Killers these days.

      Never saw Forrest Fucking Gump, and every time a normal asks and I answer, they look at me like I'm the crazy one. "How can you say you like old movies, if you've never seen Forrest Gump?"


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